• Ian Crowson Photography

Simple Camera Techniques - Portrait in the Cafe Photographed Using Available Lighting

Updated: Oct 3, 2019

Good Day from crow's-eye in Southsea. In this blog I explain how this striking portrait was captured with just a pocket camera and available cafe lighting. Ian Crowson Photography,


Sometime simple photographic techniques can achieve really good results. I took this photo in the Hayward Gallery Cafe on London's Southbank. The only equipment was a Fujifilm X-E1 pocket camera and a downlight in the cafe's ceiling. I noticed the young woman had striking features and asked if i could take a quick snap.

Most of the sucess of this image is due to her bone structure and beautiful smooth skin. i placed a chair nearly under a downlighter and asked her to look directly towards it. Ckeck out the catch lights in her eyes, the light is very nearly straight on. Although it was daytime the background is almost black. I exposed for her brightly lit face which resulted in the background being under exposed and dark.

Focus is sharp on the eyes.. In 99% of people photos the eyes must be sharp. If the depth of field is small, focus on the nearer eye to the camera. My technique is to use spot focusing, I put the little rectangle in the viewfinder on the focus area, half pressed the shutter to hold the focus and then composed and exposed.

Camera settings were, aperture f4, shutter speed 1/100th sec, and ISO 1250. The lens was a Fuji X-E1 18-55mm.

The focal length used was 55mm (83mm in full frame format)

With traditional portrait photography using 35mm cameras (full frame) the ideal lens for a head and shoulders portrait is 85 to 135mm. The reason being is these lenses give more flattering images. Try taking a fairly close up of a persons face with a wide angle lens, say 28mm and the distortion can easily be seen. The big nose of many social media photos taken with smart phones held too close. A longer focal length also means the camera is further from the subject who feels more comforable if the photographer is not too near.

I shot this in RAW and processed in Adobe Camera RAW and Photoshop. I've made a few versions of this image, from full colour to various black and white monos. This is desaturated colour which seemed to suit the subject.


bye from crow's-eye, and thanks for visiting, Ian Crowson Photography, Southsea.




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